The advent of Donald Trump’s administration won’t slow down efforts to organize or to keep corporations accountable, progressive groups vowed Friday. Striking Home Depot workers and their allies pledged a “new resistance” that would ramp up efforts to raise wages and improve their lives.
“Now is not the time to be scared or to stay home,” said Veronica Mendez Moore, co-director of CTUL, Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha/Center of Workers United in Struggle. “Now is the time to fight. Now is the time for the resistance.”
Early Friday morning, members of CTUL, a Minneapolis-based worker center, went on strike at the Home Depot store in the Quarry shopping center in Minneapolis. Taking place just hours before Trump was set to be inaugurated, the retail cleaners touted their walkout as the first of his administration.
Employed for eight years by a contractor to clean Home Depot stores, Luciano Balbuena said he earns $9.50 an hour and struggles to support his family.
“What kind of future awaits our children and grandchildren if we don’t fight back now?” he asked.
CTUL has reached agreements with Target and Best Buy that they will hire only responsible cleaning contractors who provide fair wages and working conditions. Home Depot has not agreed with that process.
Strikers were joined by allies from several unions and a number of DFL state legislators.
“This is about corporate power,” said Nick Faber, vice president of St. Paul Federation of Teachers Local 28. When workers don’t earn enough, it’s difficult for them to play a role in their children’s education, he said, and the entire community suffers.
In addition to strikes such as the walkout at Home Depot, the resistance will take many forms in 2017, organizers said.
The 15Now Minnesota coalition is continuing its campaign, which intensified last year, to institute a $15 minimum wage in the city of Minneapolis and at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
Efforts to institute earned safe and sick time requirements were successful in Minneapolis and St. Paul. A task force is studying the issue in Duluth. On Thursday, a Hennepin County judge turned back an effort by the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce to halt the local measures.
But efforts to raise wages and improve workplace standards face opposition at the state Legislature, where some lawmakers want to bar such action by communities.
Activists said they are ready to continue their campaigns in the streets, in the courts and before state and local lawmakers. They also plan to protest Trump administration decisions.
Demonstrations against Trump’s nominee for U.S. Secretary of Labor, Andrew Puzder, will be held Thursday, Jan. 26, from noon to 12:30 p.m. and Wednesday, Feb. 1, from noon to 1 p.m. at the Hardee’s restaurant at 369 Hamline Ave. N. in St. Paul.
Puzder, CEO of Hardee’s, has a record of wage theft, sexual harassment and retaliation for union organizing at his Hardee’s and Carl Jr.’s stores, CTUL representatives said. Members of the worker center are involved in the campaign to organize fast food restaurants.